Throwback Thursdays: Ras Kwame on Eddy Grant’s “Living on the Frontline”

Words by Ras Kwame—

Ras Kwame is a legend in Britain’s black music scene, one of the original DJs for BBC1Xtra and a pioneer when it comes to the blending of reggae and dancehall with garage and other U.K. dance sounds. These days he can be found pioneering the new sound called Electro Bashy, as one half of Orange Hill Productions. Look out for our interview with Kwame and his partner in crime Jnr. Tubby on LargeUp tomorrow.

Given an opportunity for a lil’ ‘throwback,’ I’m looking to throw this thing as far back as possible (for me personally) without actually losing it.

With that in mind, lets take it back to ’79!

The video in question is for a sterling favourite record of mine, Eddy Grant’s “Living On The Frontline.” I wasn’t necessarily ‘raving’ in ’79, in fact I was a schoolkid growing up in Ghana, West Africa the first time the sound of the electronic bassline on said record caused some molecular shift within I that put me on a firm road to working within the music biz. No Hollywood talk, thats the tune that started it for me, the minimalist production and that electro bass synth made a brother want to make music.

A full video for a regaae act in 1979 is a rare piece indeed (barring clips from movies like Rockers, Countryman, etc.) and I never saw this one til circa the late 80’s or early 90’s whilst back in the UK. Amongst the backdrop of conservative politics rallying towards less government assistance for the people in any shape or form, indeed there was many a “frontline” literal and otherwise to sing about in England at that time. Like Eddie said, “Mama” (i.e. the system) often made heads feel like they were livin’ frontline of the battle field.

The video itself is slick for the time, and also quite humorous in its depiction of island life, as the camera pans around to various characters (like a pair of enthusiastic grannies) wandering around and watching Eddy’s performance under a beachside pagoda. But what really stood out for me was good ‘ol uncle Eddie himself. Predating Lenny Kravitz and a whole heap of other rock guys, this dreadlocked icon looked like Superman to me, black leather clad, guitar swinging, singing songs of fire and brimstone (okay, occasionally), tellin’ us “me no want no dirty money….”, I thought that was ill! It was like a Bob Marley dude from our ends with a British accent we could relate to. The video demonstrates the whole reggae rock, UK-influenced thing very well.

And so here I am circa 2012, trying to get my Orange Hill Productions on inspired by that dude (as one of a few) and that riddim and that video. Every time I watch it I decide to learn to play guitar… haven’t conquered that yet but here’s to a reggae rock legend and some visuals to vibe to! Cheers!